By Olayinka Elebute
Nigeria’s Alex Adewale, Wasiu Yusuf and Williams Ukari will represent Nigeria at the Wheelchair Tennis World Team Cup Africa and Olympic qualifiers in Nairobi, Kenya this month.
The trio will also compete at the Nairobi Open—a clay-court ITF Futures event—in Kenya in a bid to secure vital ITF ranking points ahead of the Tokyo Paralympics.
The Nairobi Open precedes the World Team Cup qualifiers and will hold from 10 – 12 February, with players from around Africa, mostly, aiming for ITF rankings points and a share of the $3,000 total prize money pot.
Alex Adewale finished as singles runner-up at the Nairobi Open last year, but claimed the doubles titles with his partner, Wasiu Yusuf. The Wheelchair Tennis World Team Cup Africa qualifiers will also hold in Nairobi from 13 – 16 February, with eight African countries looking to secure qualification to the World Team Cup Finals.
Both the Nairobi Open and the World Team Cup Africa qualifiers are ITF ranking events, and Alex Adewale, who’s currently ranked 120 on the ITF Wheelchair Rankings, and Wasiu Yusuf, ranked 125, will be looking to secure ranking points, as points gathered will boost their rankings and increase their chances of qualifying for the Tokyo Paralympics in August.
Wasiu Yusuf clinched his first ITF Futures title at the PUMA Engineering Wheelchair Open in Abuja last year. Regarding the players’ level of preparedness, the country’s wheelchair tennis coach, Frank Tarmena said, “Everybody is in top shape and we are prepared to go and do what we know how to do best.”
For the World Team Cup, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Egypt, Algeria and host nation, Kenya will contest this year’s qualifiers. The top two nations in each of the men’s and women’s pools after three days of round-robin action will meet in the final to decide which teams will qualify for the 2020 World Team Cup Finals.
Nigeria competed in last year’s qualifiers in Kenya, but couldn’t get over the line. South Africa booked their place in the main event last year after the country’s men’s and women’s team prevailed in the qualifying event.
The World Team Cup, which is the wheelchair equivalent of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup tournaments, will take place in Vilamoura, Portugal in May this year.